When I tell people that I’m moving to Ohio, I generally receive a response somewhere between disappointment and disgust. When I tell people that we’re moving to Warren, Ohio, the response is often more dismayed. These responses are found on the faces of non-residents as often as they are found on the faces of residents.
Take a drive through Ohio for more than an hour, and I’m sure you’ll see a bumper sticker that says something like, “Stuck in Ohio.” Tell someone you’re moving to Ohio, and they’ll say, “You’re moving where?” As it turns out, Ohio is not a popular place.
When it comes to moving and ministry, God invites to remember that we are, at once, both totally responsible for where we live, and totally victim to God’s discretion on the place we end up calling home.
You Get to Choose Where You Live
The raw fact of the matter is that you choose where you live; no one is “Stuck” anywhere. You’re there by your own choosing. Two years ago, my mom and step-dad and three brothers packed up and moved to Phoenix. They did it because they chose to do it.
The fact that you choose where to live is ultimately an invitation to cease all grumbling and complaining. Do you hear that Trumbull County? You’re living there by your own choice, so shape up or ship out. Paul, writing to the Philippians, frames our grumbling well:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world… [2:14-15]
Paul connects our grumbling with out witness: complaining about where we live adopts the attitude of escapism. We’re called instead to gratitude, because it is from the posture of gratitude that we can see where we live as a location for mission and the cultivation of human flourishing.
God’s invitation, then, is to cease grumbling and employ gratitude about where we live–to adopt a posture of servant and cultivator of a community.
But You Also Don’t Get to Choose Where You Live
While on the one hand, we have loads of freedom to exercise when it comes to where we live, on the other hand, God has divine purposes in play as to where we rest our heads. Again, Paul says,
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. [Acts 4:26-27a]
Catch this: there is divine purpose for your dwelling place. God has placed you where you are so that you would be placed in a loving community from which you can serve the world. God is not surprised by your dwelling; instead he is delighted in its delineation. Most importantly, God establishes the boundaries of dwelling places so that we might seek Him. Wherever you are in this present moment is divinely ordained so that you could commune with God.
God’s invitation, then, is to meet him in the everyday-ness of your dwelling place: its traffic patterns, economic climate, weather systems, and community problems. The mundane aspects of your dwelling places are opportunities for you to seek God.
Surely God is in This Place
Wherever you are, and however you feel about that, we have to choose to see the divine purpose behind our dwelling places. Paul finishes verse 27 with this idea: “Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” You have been placed where you are so that you can say with Jacob, “Surely, God is in this place!” We are neither “Stuck” anywhere; neither awe we the masters of our own fate.
We are Children of God: placed precisely where He wants us for mission, service, and holiness. In that case, the only bumper sticker we need is “Stuck in God’s Plan.”